This I Believe:
When I was younger, my father would take me to the local YMCA every Sunday to go swimming. Those outings were particularly special to me. Sunday would arrive, and, before dinner, my father and I would enter the YMCA hand in hand. With my dad, I spent precious time in the public pool, basking in the chlorine and admiring the echoes of laughter that reverberated from the blue pool tiles.
The best aspect of my swimming adventures with my father was when he carried me into the deep end, my arms wrapped tightly around his neck. The YMCA pool had a series of foam shapes hanging above the water. Being five years old, these decorations appeared to hover forty feet over my head. They were tantalizing. I was especially attracted to the center fixture of the shapes: a simple red star. As I stared at that star, fixated, my father would suddenly grasp me by the waist and hurl me into the air. As I left the water I would reach with all my childlike might and brush my fingers against the cool, soft surface of the star before falling back into my dad’s open arms. In the pool, the impossible shape suddenly became obtainable despite my five year-old limitations. I was able to touch what seemed too far away.
However, this game of catching the star met an abrupt end. One Sunday, while my father was about to hoist me once again towards the ceiling, a sharp yell struck me. It was a lifeguard, obviously new to the job from his frazzled manner, and he sternly ordered my father to put me back into the water. “That star is not meant to be groped,” the lifeguard said as he stormed away from my father and I. My dad attempted to console me after this incident, guiding me back to the shallow depths and engaging me in another activity. Yet I could not help but long for the star. It was my beautiful star, my wonderful challenge. I grew angry with the lifeguard who so uncaringly crushed my star-filled ambitions. But then something changed within me. Sitting within the pool, splashing the water, my anger and disappointment were absolved. Instead I was inspired. From lack of opportunity and inability there came an unforgettable desire to overcome the barricades, such as the lifeguard, that stood in my way.
I believe in reaching beyond limits, no matter how difficult these limits may seem. The rules established by the lifeguard barred me from being with the mesmerizing star. Yet it is these bans and regulations that kindle my determination and ambitious dreams. Now it is ten years later and I have twenty-three inches more in height. I no longer visit the YMCA every Sunday. But I know that I will touch that red star again. To defy is to live among the stars. That red star and I are not done with each other. I will keep reaching.
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